Stick to the guns

New Year’s resolutions can actually work wonders. Sounds a bit ambitious? They can and they do.

By Adam Zacharias

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Published: Tue 1 Jan 2008, 9:21 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 3:08 PM

A City Times reporter writes how they turned his life around for good in a few months, after he adhered to his last year’s resolutions (actually, only some of them)

AS MY OLD man used to say, self-improvement is for losers.

Okay, there are two fundamental problems with that sentence: firstly it implies that he’s no longer with us, which he is, and secondly he’s never actually said anything of the sort. Inherited wisdom just always sounds more authentic than personal assertions.

Now for the truth — the whole notion of “self-improvement” has always seemed a little wishy-washy to my ears. Admittedly, it’s a noble concept, that you can help make the world a better place for yourself, those close to you and even total strangers.

However, this theory seems to have been perverted in modern times to toy with the neuroses of the gullible and those with nothing better to do. Happiness is always just a short reach and a handful of golden coins away. Go to your local bookstore, and you’re guaranteed to find row after row of books with titles such as ‘No Enemies Within: A Creative Process for Discovering What’s Right About What’s Wrong’ and ‘Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment.’

Similarly, MTV is now replete with shows detailing the “troubled” lives of young and beautiful people, living by the beach and cursing their misfortunes. None of us are interested in what we have, even if we have it very nicely indeed.

Anyway, rant over. Personally, I’ve always subscribed to the glass-half-full/head-in-the-sand way of thinking, which has extended to New Year’s resolutions.

However, precisely one year ago today my outlook suddenly started to crumble. With 2008 looming, I found myself utterly broke and with my life in definite need of some extensive repair work.

Three days into January, I was due to move back in with my parents, who live in a pleasant but tedious village outside London. I was also single and earning roughly the same as a McDonald’s drone, working as a journalist for my local newspaper. In short, my life was the theme tune to ‘Friends.’ But I didn’t need anyone to be “there” for me — as my old man used to say, “if you want something done right, do it yourself.” And I have actually heard him say that.

So, with my life in drastic need of a makeover, I exchanged my overly simplistic cliché for his, and decided on a New Year’s resolution list. Here’s what I came up with over the course of one afternoon…

1)Give more to charity

2) More gym

3) Less alcohol

4) Less smoking

5) Write 200 pages of A4 for a novel

6) Reach 100 words per minute of shorthand writing speed

7) Yoga classes

8) Move to Dubai

9) Go to the dentist

10) Go on a run once a week

11) Get published in five magazines

12) Take a homeless person for lunch

13) Plan a holiday with mates from school

14) Read at least one book a month

15) Volunteer for a worthwhile organisation

And then I put that small piece of paper in my wallet and started on turning my life around. A year later, I freely concede that many of these aims have fallen by the wayside — specifically numbers 3,5,7,10,12 and 15 – all of which are now being integrated into my 2009 resolutions list.

However, to my utter surprise some of the more fanciful inclusions on the list were the ones I actually achieved. I moved to Dubai in September, my old school friend moved out here last month (a loophole victory for number 13), I haven’t smoked a cigarette since February and I now swim regularly. Having a written out list nestled in my wallet helped immeasurably, not so much for motivation as a steady reminder (I can be somewhat forgetful and easily distracted in my endeavours).

This slipshod list of resolutions, done completely on a whim, has without doubt transformed my life for the better. Give it a shot yourself and start your own list — even if your life isn’t broken, it can always do with a bit of tinkering. In fact, that sounds like a good title for a book.

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